- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ben Bernanke moved a step closer yesterday to becoming the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, a job in which he will wield much power over the financial fortunes of investors big and small.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, by voice vote, recommended his confirmation to the full Senate. Considered one of the country’s leading economic thinkers, Mr. Bernanke is expected to get a positive vote there as well. The timing of when that will happen was still being determined.

Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, was the only senator present voicing opposition to Mr. Bernanke. Mr. Bunning cited concerns that the nominee would be too much in the mold of Alan Greenspan, the man he would replace, and not a sufficiently independent thinker.

Mr. Bernanke, 51, is a former Princeton professor and Fed governor who serves as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Lawmakers and the administration are wasting no time on his nomination because they want him ready to take over when the 79-year-old Mr. Greenspan retires Jan. 31 after 18-plus years at the helm.

“Dr. Bernanke is eminently qualified and a superb choice for the nomination of Federal Reserve chairman,” said committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Mr. Bernanke enjoys “broad bipartisan support” and “has the potential to follow in the footsteps of the giants like Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan.”

The panel vote came one day after Mr. Bernanke, in a poised performance, offered the committee his insights into a variety of economic issues during a three-hour hearing on his nomination. Mr. Bernanke told senators Tuesday that if confirmed he will not veer dramatically from the policies of Mr. Greenspan and would ensure the Fed remains free from political influence.

He also said he would move slowly and seek to build a consensus on the notion of inflation targeting — that is, numerically spelling out acceptable bounds for inflation. That’s one area where he and Mr. Greenspan differ. Mr. Bernanke supports a numerical inflation target, Mr. Greenspan doesn’t.

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